Just when you think that people are getting the right ideas about urban planning, someone will come up with an idea that reminds you that there is still work to be done.

An article from the August 7 editions of The Enterprise Newspapers [of Snohomish County] (Mill Creek Edition) notes that 94-year-old Mill Creek resident Frederick Blake has come up with a solution for curing the “gridlock” problem in North King County and South Snohomish Counties.  That solution would include a new freeway from I-5 from about the Ravenna Blvd exit over to Sand Point, a new bridge from Sand Point to Holmes Point Drive in Kirkland, and then a freeway from there to connect to SR 522 and SR 9.

I was under the impression that such ideas were pretty well gone in the 1970’s.  Apparently I am wrong. To their credit, the WSDOT has been ignoring Mr Blake for what he calls “the last 13 years.”  But recently, he has had encouragement to continue his quest for more freeways.

The article notes that Terry Ryan, the mayor of Mill Creek, is excited about a possible plan to get a freeway into his town.  He says that he truly believes that now is the time to buy land and move peoples’ houses and start building freeways through existing neighborhoods.  That is needed so people in his town can get to Downtown Seattle by car a little faster.

I would like to think that if someone wanted to be within fast commuting distance to Seattle that they wouldn’t have chosen to live in a town 20 miles away, and behind a major lake.  One of the Seattle Area’s biggest problems, along with the fact that the metropolitan area has grown so large, is that folks expect to be able to move efficiently from any two points in the area, at any time of the day, just as if they were driving the only car on the road.  Also, this task needs to be done on an expressway that gave no heed to the presence of their neighbors living between them and their goal.   Are we really going to solve the regions problems by paving it in freeways?

I would like to make a few observations about Mill Creek.  This town did not even exist, other than as a few homes and some farmland, until 1983.  Since that time, the area has grown in amazing proportions, until it is indistinguishable from any other suburb of the Seattle area.

People can choose to live where they please.  But it seems rather presumptuous to build a town in the middle of a piece of farmland without provision for transporting its inhabitants to the places it needs to go for work or provisioning.  I cannot seem to get too excited for people who build a house in a place 20 miles from where they want to be every day, then complain that they can’t get there in 20 minutes.  Sorry, life doesn’t work that way.

Sure, we need efficient means for our citizens to get around.  Yes, SR 522 was built at a time when there was very little development between what is now downtown Bothell and downtown Monroe.  Perhaps improvements need to be made to these highways.  But Mr Blake’s plan seems to be something out of 1960’s science fiction.  We need a 21st Century solution to our transportation problems.

If Mayor Blake sees a need to improve transportation opportunities to areas outside his immediate area, perhaps he needs to be working with Community Transit or Sound Transit to arrange fast and easy alternatives for residents commuting to Seattle or Everett.  Perhaps there needs to be planning in the bigger picture, such as planning towns in a way that lets residents live and work in the same general geographic area.  There must certainly be a better way to solve this problem than cutting down a swath of neighborhoods from Green Lake, Northeast into Snohomish County.

I don’t really think this potential project will see the light of day in my lifetime.  On the other hand, the City of Mill Creek did not exist during the first half of my lifetime.  So who knows what might happen?  The inventor of this plan, Frederick Blake, noted that “The state wasted three years studying Sand Point and then went ahead with the original (Montlake) crossing,” continuing “They wasted a lot of money.”  I would hope that the state doesn’t waste any time studying this idea.  There are many more worthwhile solutions that might be considered first.

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I would like to make one comment on the term “gridlock”.  The title of the article I quoted above was “Stuck in Gridlock? He’s Your Man.”  The term “gridlock” refers to a traffic jam in which a grid of intersecting streets is so completely congested that no vehicular movement is possible.  This is a frequent problem in big cities such as New York City, where motorists block intersections that they cannot clear after a red light.

I believe I can correctly guess that there has never been a case of gridlock in Snohomish County.  While I cannot say for absolute certainly, it is certainly not occurring in an area such as Mill Creek, or anywhere on a regular basis.  When I see this inaccuracy in our local media, I tend to question the accuracy of the other information presented in the article.  How much of the article describes a real problem, and how much of it is sensationalism in suggesting that Snohomish County may ever see a case of gridlock.